We often hear about the connections between lifestyle choices and cancer risk. It is estimated that 1 in 3 Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their life. Fortunately recent research provides useful information that can help people prevent the development of cancer.
There are many known behaviors related to the development of cancer. There is a known relationship between using tobacco products (both smoking and oral) and the development of cancer. Avoiding tobacco use is essential in preventing cancer. Tobacco cessation is arguably one of the best moves one can make for health, and most health practitioners are well-versed in tobacco cessation options.
Excessive use of alcohol is another behavior linked to certain types of cancer. Ceasing excessive alcohol use is necessary to prevent your development of cancer. The general guidelines for alcohol use limit women to one drink daily and men to two drinks daily. Consuming alcohol greater than this can lead to negative health consequences.
In addition to smoking and drinking, diet, exercise and body weight play an important role in preventing cancer.
The World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research suggest the following cancers are connected to individuals who are overweight or obese; post-menopausal breast, prostate, kidney, endometrial, esophageal, colon, rectal, gallbladder, pancreas, thyroid, ovary, cervix, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Being as lean as possible without being underweight is a great way to lower risk of developing cancer. Excessive weight gain at any point in life increases health risks. Losing weight can often be overwhelming, especially to those who have been battling obesity their entire lives. Keep in mind that even losing a few pounds is a great start and will provide positive health benefits. Being lean and within a health weight range is a great way to reduce your risks of developing cancer.
Diet may play a huge role in the development of cancer. The connection goes far beyond just obesity. As the western diet (high in carbohydrates and processed foods) makes its way around the world, obesity is no longer just an American problem. Other countries replacing their native diet with the western diet are now finding a population that is growing heavier. Given this, it is important to evaluate the primary components of the Western diet.
The western diet is high in simple carbohydrates (white bread, white pasta, white rice, white sugar) as well as processed foods (donuts, cakes, cheese puffs, and many other supermarket finds in boxes and packages), and foods high in fat (hamburgers, French fries, cheese, etc.). The western diet is low in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains; which are the components that provide the nutrients essential to the body’s health. Cancer prevention means eating a healthy diet with emphasis on plant-derived food. This means limiting processed meats and red meats, eating at least 2.5 cups of fruits and vegetables, and choosing whole grains over refined grains. Stay away from processed foods, limit salt intake, and avoid sugary drinks.
Regular physical activity is associated with a lower body weight and a lower risk of developing cancer. It is recommended that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity on a weekly basis. A physically active lifestyle supports the maintenance of a healthy body weight as well as overall health. Sedentary activities should be limited (sitting, watching tv, sleeping, etc). For those intimidated by moderate or vigorous activity, keep in mind that any physical activity above normal activities is better than nothing. Incorporating some physical activities into your day can reap many health benefits.
It is recommended that cancer related nutrition come from a balanced diet heavy in vegetables and fruits. However there are some studies that suggest supplementation of certain vitamins and minerals may be beneficial in cancer prevention and treatment. Vitamin C is a beneficial vitamin in many cases due to its antioxidant properties. Research has indicated that Vitamin D3 may have a preventative impact on the reoccurrence of cancer. In addition to this benefit, Vitamin D3 supports healthy bones. Calcium and Magnesium work similarly to Vitamin D3 in that they support bone health and may offer benefits in cancer prevention. Omega3 fatty acids offer another supplement that may provide benefits to patients with breast, prostate and non-small cell lung cancers.
Talk to your Practitioner
As with all medical concerns, it is important to talk to your health practitioner before initiating any treatment plans. If you have concerns about your cancer risks, discuss them with your practitioner. He or she can help you develop a health plan that is right for you. For those pursuing active treatment of cancer, it is important to discuss any lifestyle or supplement changes with your oncologist.